- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rebel attacks that have killed more than 200 people in southern Sudan underscore the challenges facing the fledgling nation as it seeks foreign investment, a senior southern Sudanese government official said Tuesday.”

“The main challenge is security,” said Deng Alor, minister of regional cooperation for the autonomous Government of Southern Sudan. “Everything depends on security and stability in southern Sudan.”

Mr. Alor was in Washington this week on a mission that included inviting investors to southern Sudan, which has barely 25 miles of paved road. “We are trying to invite investors from the United States and all over the world,” he said. “There is no investor that can go to a place that is not secure.”

Southerners voted by an overwhelming majority in a referendum last month to secede from the north. The world’s newest country will officially be born on July 9.

Last week, forces loyal to George Athor, a former army officer who has resorted to violence after losing in last year’s election, attacked mostly civilians in the oil-rich state of Jonglei. Many of the victims, including women and children, drowned after rebels chased them into a river, a southern official told the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, southern officials put the death toll in the incident at 210.

Mr. Alor said the southern government would address the problem “squarely, because we don’t want this to spread.” He said his government is using force and dialogue to deal with Mr. Athor’s forces.

“We are not going to stop talking to him, but we are also not going to allow him to do what he did a few days ago,” Mr. Alor said.

On the eve of the Jan. 9 referendum on southern secession, Mr. Athor signed a cease-fire with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). His rebels broke that truce when they attacked the towns of Fangak and Dor in Jonglei state last week.

Pagan Amum, a senior member of the south’s ruling party, accused the north of trying to destabilize the south by arming militias. “It was a massacre of our people and it is really very painful,” he said, according to a Reuters news agency report.

“Today armed groups are being financed, being armed, being sent into southern Sudan from the north. You know that George Athor, who just caused the massacre in Fangak, his guns are coming from Khartoum,” said Mr. Amum, secretary general of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Rabie Abdelati, a senior member of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP), denied the accusation. “Athor’s is a southern group and there is no connection between the NCP and Athor,” he told Reuters.

Mr. Alor, meanwhile, said the rebels do not have much support in the south, adding that he believes the unrest can be controlled.

“We want the private sector to help us with reconstruction, but we have to make the environment conducive for them,” Mr. Alor said. “We will do everything possible to make southern Sudan an attractive place.”

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